IBM’s 22% profit rise reflects a lot of things, including significant cost cutting, but the deeper message in the figures is that IBM is making progress on becoming an innovation and design consultant to Corporate America. IBM has been moving its traditional business consulting work upscale by doing two things: 1) taking over increasingly sophisticated operations from companies and running them;
2) using its top-notch design and technology expertise to do innovation for other companies. The profits numbers show real progress in expanding both businesses.
I spoke with Lee Green, the director of corporate identity and design at IBM, Robert Steinbugler, program manager of strategic corporate design and people at IBM’s Engineering & Technology Services (E&TS) group recently. They say they can go to companies, manufacturing and service companies and help them in six different ways:
1- improve time to market
2- cut R&D budgets
3- integrate advanced IBM technologies
4- gain access to IBM’s intellectual property
5- provide engineering skills from IBM’s 40,000 engineers.
6- provide differentiated experiences to customers.
IBM says it can be the content designer for certain kinds of products for certain kinds of companies. The next step is for Flextronics or other mass manufacturers to actually make the stuff. If you want, IBM also says it will plug you into their global supply network.
This is all good stuff, if IBM can deliver, and the profits numbers show that a growing number of companies say it can. Revenues rose 3% but business consulting was up 6% and the business of handling other companies’ operations jumped 45%. Boeing, Sony, Brother, Panasonic, the NYSE, Mayo Clinic—all customers. And for those who scoff at the idea of IBM as a design leader, just remember that the ThinkPad may be as much an iconic product design as the iPod.
Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.